You had just finished Adichie’s latest book and sat down to write a post to your blog about it. You had realized that it was drawing your mind towards yourself and the people and places around you. It was the summer you did not go to Roskilde Festival, the summer you finished early at uni and started late, the summer your mother was waiting anxiously for your arrival back home, where you belong, on the little islands in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. The islands very few people knew, and most outsiders deemed either breathtakingly beautiful when speaking of the nature, or backwards and stubborn when speaking of its inhabitants, of course they did not know the incredibly fabulousness of the society because they weren’t insiders. You were watching the sunny pavement outside and wondering what kind of weather would form your holiday visit to your homeland.
Adichie speaks to me. The little section here up above is my own humble way of showing one of the narrational techniques she uses and the air with which she does it. She is a storyteller of refreshing confidence. The stories are pervaded with curious impressions of her women protagonists, who either are out of their cultural boundaries, relocated in geography or seeing new situations arise out of old settings. So many of these short stories deserve attention on so many levels but what most struck me (probably on a relational level) was the sense of being or existence on the one hand, and the quizzical reflection the narrators have on people who deny their culture and identity. There is a lot of emphasis on who someone is, and why someone is. What does culture mean, and how ingrown are you? Is it easy to change from one cultural identity or are you just posing, trying to fit in? When you no longer feel kinship with a former identity, do you feel shame, or do you scorn others for not evolving as much as you? Do you have the right to weave your own culture into someone else’s, to put your mark on it? All of these questions arose in my mind while reading Adichie, and all of the women are so beautifully human.
However, I also have some reservations with the stories. In general, the issue of race, and especially the multifaceted power issues between white and black, somehow always ends up in the same critique of the former and the self-negating puppet actions of the latter. The former is always displaying condescending attitude towards the latter, no matter if he means well or is trying to forcibly impose his ideas, and the latter takes the rottenness of the former and pervades himself with it. Granted, the issue is fraught with so much background by now, that no matter what stance you take, you take the wrong one. But it gets tiring, and I do wish (fairytales and pixie-dust) that we could move on, individual to individual, on more equal terms.
‘The Thing Around Your Neck’ did for me just what I want books to do for me: they opened a door into a realm I am not entirely aquatinted with and invited me to think (even if some doors were closed and some places were thought for me).
I was complaining about my lack of knowledge in African literature the other day, and hey presto, this pops up: http://www.bok-bibliotek.se/bokmassan/teman/ . It is the Swedish Bokmässa (book fair) on September 23-26, and I am contemplating a visit. I have only been to one book fair, which was last year in Forum, Copenhagen. And although it was extremely crowded and sweaty, it was really fun to browse around the different publishing houses and see what people were writing these days. Plus, Sweden is not such a bad place to be in 🙂 If you have any tips on African literature that is a must-read do tell. I am almost finished with Adichies’ ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’, and I can’t wait to get started on her previous book. It really is a good compilation of short stories. Too bad it will be over so soon.
I have talked so much about my mailbox these last entries that I think I should name one category ‘mailbox’.
Today was no exception: I opened my mailbox and two books came tumbling out, much to my delight.
The Blixen book I received for the tweet I talked about in my earlier post. It is so pwetty! I think I will wait a while before reading it, and just enjoy its crisp, white cover for a while before I smudge it with my ever so clumsy butterfingers.
The second one I received so I could review it. And this one I will definitely start on today. I have bought Adichie’s earlier book ‘Half of a yellow sun’ – which coincidentally is also on my ever-growing to-read-in-summer list – so I contemplated if I should read that one first, but really, I don’t really see the point in keeping up with chronology.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is Nigerian, educated in the USA and has written two novels before this one. ‘Half of a yellow sun’ is set in 1960’s Nigeria in civil war-time and it centers on three main characters.
‘The thing around your neck’ (the book on the photo) is a collection of short stories, originally published in 2009 and translated/published to Danish in June, 2010.
I have never read (that I remember, or know of) any African writers’ works, so I am looking forward to see how she writes, and what she writes about. It seems that Africa is for the most part narrated in the Western culture through monetary/monitory voices, so it will be nice to hear from the people who actually grow up and live in Africa. With the craze of the World Cup in South Africa, where the vuvuzela has been no. 1 item on news channels’ report list, it has managed to overshadow every other good story they could run about this fascinating country. So I will turn off my TV (my mother and brother are going: “Blasphemy!!”), make a good cup of tea and sit in my chair reading my way through Africa, until the day I walk the continent and see it for myself.